PHUKET: More than 100 tourists were rescued when a ferry began sinking and ran aground this afternoon as it headed from Phi Phi island to Phuket.
Taking water, the ferry Pernfung 2 made for Keaw island, between Phi Phi and Phuket, according to Marine Police officers.
Another vessel, Pichanon, making a regular afternoon run from Phuket to Phi Phi, was diverted to Keaw island where it picked up the passengers from the stricken ferry.
''The passengers are now all safely on Phi Phi and will be returned to Phuket this evening,'' a Marine Police officer said.
The owner of the day-tripping ferry, Samphan Iyara, told Phuketwan that 115 passengers were on the vessel.
Photographs show it aground at Keaw island.
''I've never encountered conditions like this before in all my years in business,'' Khun Samphan said. ''Waves of four to five metres were breaking over the front of the vessel.
''The wood gave way and the boat started taking water. It left Phi Phi at 3pm and those kinds of conditions were not expected.''
Six crew will return to Phuket tonight with the 115 tourists.
Khun Samphan said the vessel was valued at 18 million baht. ''We will look at trying to get it back to Phuket somehow tomorrow,'' he said.
Last month, the Royal Thai Navy vessel was called out to rescue more than 400 tourists stranded on an island off Phuket and Phang Nga in a severe storm.
At the weekend, about 100 tourists had to be rescued after another predicted storm struck, stranding them on an island off Krabi.
Tourism industry operators have since been debating the merits of leaving the decision to put to sea on days when bad weather is forecast in the hands of boat ''captains.''